October 1856-July 1857

The Collected Letters, Volume 32


JWC TO ELISABETH DWIGHT ; 15 December 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18561215-JWC-EDW-01; CL 32: 52-55


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea 15th December 1856

You dear best girl in all America! I embrace you with all my heart, (as you left it),1 and all my strength (considerably impaired); and thank you warmly for having given me a surprise, and a pleasure, and a consolation all in one!

Had your sister consulted the Stars for the favourablest moment to present that chair she could have done no better.2 The moment she hit upon was one, when my soul (if I could any longer be said to have a soul) was crying alould3 to Mr Carlyle's friends “The Destinies,"4The Immortal Gods,” “The Superior Powers” to bid something happen; and, if possible something pleasant! My very physical life was feeling to depend on something “out of the Blue” (as your Miss Sedgwick quoted us—5 God forgive her!) coming to quicken my languid circulation, and interrupt the circular course of my ideas! For, my Dear, I was in a crisis of disordered nerves complicated with “the contradictions of sinners,"6 and for the rest, was it not “the gloomy month of November in which,” as the Frenchman began his novel, “the People of England hang and drown themselves"? Into this state of things your sister introduced the chair! and I doubt if a whole course of tonics “thrown into the system” could have done me half the good; tho’ Geraldine Jewsbury told me that very morning she “knew I was lying dying there, all for want of tonics?!7 I assure you for a measurable space of time I stood amazed before it (the chair) “as in presence of The Infinite"!8 Then as my thoughts separated themselves into a certain distinctness, and I realized that all these lovely leaves had been worked for me! that you had worked them for me! and that you were away to “the other side,” so that I could not get at you to kiss you! my mercury rose from freezing to Summer Heat; and I did not know whether to laugh or cry, and so did both, I am afraid, which looked rather foolish!—Meanwhile your sister sat on a low chair beside my sofa: cheering me like “the Singing Tree, the Talking Bird and the Golden Water” all in one!9 And when she went away leaving me alone with my chair I found myself saved—for that time! Upon my honour I dont quite believe that woman is a woman at all! I mean I have my own suspicion that Mrs Edward Twisleton is the Fairy Paribanou Rediviva!10 Did you ever notice how the room, which she comes into, grows all sunshiny; even tho’ it be a “gloomy-November” day and fog pressing up to the windows? Then see how wonderfully she adapts her speech to your state! I have never seen her during this long illness without being reminded of a magic casket I have read of in Fairy Literature (my favourite Literature I blush to say!) in which you had only to dive and draw forth whatever thing you practically needed at the moment; were it a sword to cut off a giants head or diamond slippers to dance in at a ball!—11 Oh I do love her dearly! and always the more the longer! I should tell you for your comfort that she never looked so well since I knew her as she is doing just now. Such a difference since last winter at the Grange! My only regret for her is that she has not a sister always with her; she loves her family so much! and naturally there are so few women here that she can sympathize with!12

Do you know I think you must be an adorable family; If it weren't that a sea voyage would be certain death to me; I would set about trying to persuade Mr Carlyle to get up a course of “Georges"13 or somethings to make money of in America and accompany him; on purpose to see all Mrs Twisleton's sisters!14 I “did intend” to write a long letter, and to tell you about everybody and everything; but I am already tired— being still about as effective as an eel trying to stand on its tail! However I get out now most days for a drive, and expect before long to be able to do a little walking anyhow when Paribanou returns from Bowood15 I seriously mean to go to lunch with her. Will you remember me to the kind sister16 who made me the pretty camisole, the pattern of which has been asked for both in Scotland and England

Your affectionate friend

Jane Welsh Carlyle

It was quite a mistake about Mr Carlyle “talking quite rationally”—never any such thing I assure you!

The last news of him is that he has got a horse and a secretary (German) and the German secretary is going to prove invaluable to me, I rather think as a Lightning Conductor. Blitz Ableiter.